A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. —Proverbs 17:17
Teenagers are more affected by friends than almost anything else. They are sometimes more affected by friends than by parents and pastor combined. Teenagers want friends. In fact, the deepest need of all of us, whether we're young or old, is for enduring friendships. A true friend is a great treasure, but the wrong kind of friend is the greatest danger that a teenager can possibly have.
There are two categories of friends: casual and intimate. Now, casual friends are not the kind of friends I'm talking about when I say a friend can either help or hurt you. We are to have casual friends that we minister to, but this does not mean that casual friends are to become intimate friends. The Bible says, "He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed" (Proverbs 13:20).
A true friend is somebody who is faithful, who encourages you and makes you better. One of the marks of a true friend, a godly friend, is whether you are a better person for having been with him, and is he a better person for having been with you. A true friend will challenge you. A true friend is strong enough to say, "That is wrong, and I love you too much to let you get away with it." The Bible says in Proverbs 27:17, "Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend."
One of the saddest stories in the Bible is found in 2 Samuel 13. It involves one of King David's sons who let a casual friend become an intimate friend and influence him with tragic results. Amnon desired to have an illicit relationship with his half-sister, Tamar. His friend, Jonadab, encouraged him to play sick and ask for Tamar to be sent into his room with some food. She came, and he raped her. This act brought tragedy and turmoil into King David's family for years to come, and it all started because Amnon "had a friend" (2 Samuel 13:3).
Parents, let me tell you something: your kids are going to be like their friends. They are already like them, or they will soon be like them. When a teenager is asked why he smokes, his reply often will start with, "I had a friend...." When asked why he drinks: "I had a friend...." "How did you get hooked on pornography?" "At a friend's house."
Some of you don't even know what your kids' friends are like. You need to listen to their conversations, see how they dress, and pay attention to the kind of music they listen to. Know the kids your kids are hanging around with. You can evaluate the spiritual condition of your children by their friends.
Now, parents, you need to help your children here, even when they may not want your help. You need to help them to choose their friends wisely.
• Help them to understand the dangers that are involved. Today, teenagers often don't see the consequences of sin. They see the beautiful side shown on TV and in advertisements. Take them to the court, to the jail, to the hospital emergency room on a weekend night, or even to the morgue. Teach your children that there are real consequences to sin.
• Carefully guard their company. Proverbs 22:10, says, "Cast out the scorner, and contention shall go out; yea, strife and reproach shall cease." If there's a kid who's hanging around who's bad news, say, "Son, there's the sidewalk." Or tell your teenager, "You're not going anywhere with him." Parents, don't try to win a popularity contest. Help your child choose his friends.
• Teach them the importance of their choices. Don't let your twelve-year old go out on a date. Wise up! These children are babies. They do not yet have what it takes to make these kinds of choices. Teach them. Work with them. Guide them.
One of the best things to do is make your home the most fun place in town. Fill up the refrigerator, get a table tennis table, some good music, and let them sit on your couch and break it down. Let them drop stuff on your rug, but have them in your house so you can watch them and see what they're like. They're more precious than your furniture or your groceries.
I beg you, help your teenager choose his friends carefully. Thank God there is one friend that "sticketh closer than a brother" (Proverbs 18:24), and His name is Jesus. He's the one that will help them understand all these other friendships. And He's the one that will guide them to the right friendships.